Joliet seniors displaced from Joshua Arms residences relocated to hotels

No timeline on when they can move back

Joliet — A burst pipe and subsequent electrical failure at a senior housing facility has left more than 200 Joliet seniors temporarily displaced.

Joshua Arms Senior Residences, located at 1315 Rowell Ave., lost power on Sunday after a pipe burst in a resident’s apartment and shorted out an electrical panel in the building.

Many of the building’s residents are now staying in hotels provided by the facility’s management and are receiving two meals a day thanks to a partnership with the Joliet Salvation Army.

“It started because of a leak under an apartment sink, which resulted in flooding, which damaged an electrical panel and caused a power outage,” said Barb Haley, the senior director of Communications for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, which owns the facility. “There was also a small fire that started when the panel blew, but it was nothing major. The bigger issue was from the flooding.”

Joshua Arms is home to 224 seniors, about 40 of whom live in supportive living units and need daily assistance.

Haley said that LSSI transported those supportive living residents to nursing homes or other assisted living facilities for temporary placement while repairs are made to the building’s electrical system. While the residents are being assisted by staff in their temporary housing, LSSI’s staff has been paying them daily visits to check in and keep communication open.

“It was a lot of equipment damaged. It’s not something we can go get at the hardware store to install. We need to test things and we may need to wait for parts.”

—   Barb Haley, senior director of Communications for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois

As the extent of the damage was being assessed on Sunday, Haley said that some residents chose to spend the night without power while others sought other accommodations with friends or family or at local hotels.

“Once we realized Monday that it could be a while before we get power back, more people arranged to stay with friends and family, and we arranged hotel accommodations for those who didn’t,” Haley said. “As of now, everyone is out of the building and temporarily housed elsewhere, and LSSI is paying for hotel accommodations.”

It is still unclear when residents will be able to move back into the facility. The water damage to the electrical system was significant and significant testing is needed to figure out what needs to be done and parts need to be ordered, Haley said.

“It blew out a whole electrical panel,” she said. “It was a lot of equipment damaged. It’s not something we can go get at the hardware store to install. We need to test things and we may need to wait for parts.”

An emergency generator has kept power running to the building’s elevator and first floor. It is possible additional generators would eventually be able to power more of the building while repairs are made, but more safety tests need to be conducted first.

“We currently have no ETA on when the building will have power back or be able to work off generators,” Haley said. “Our main concern is for the safety of our tenants.

According to Haley, the building is safe enough that residents have been able to arrange to come in to retrieve items they need from their apartments, however, as of May 9, there has been no update on when they will be able to move back in. Once electricians determine the extent of the work, the facility will need to get approval from the Joliet Building Department to commence with the repairs, and the fire department will need to do a final inspection before residents are permitted to move back in.

“We have a great working relationship with the City of Joliet and they’ve been very understanding and supportive of our situation,” said Haley. “We’ve spoken with all the residents and plan to meet with them or call them every other day to update them on the situation.”

Since Sunday, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois has been in touch with the Joliet Fire Department and Will County Emergency Management Agency, as well as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, who LSSI administers housing for at the residence, about the situation.

“We’ve been in contact with everyone as a matter of safety,” Haley said. “Now the issue is bringing in electricians to do their work and figure out what needs to be fixed.”